Growing up, I was the shy, timid girl who hid in corners and dreaded group settings. I always felt uncomfortable, awkward, and I didn’t have the first idea how to make friends or “fit in”. When my family moved to the Tri-Cities when I was in fourth grade, I was faced with a lot of overwhelming, scary situations for a shy kid.
Going to a large church like Bethel was daunting, and I quickly began to dread Sundays and all that Sunday school entailed – What should I wear to fit in? Who will I sit next to? Which group do I go to when they break into small groups? What if they asked me a question I didn’t know the answer to?
Needless to say, those first few months were a struggle for me, and probably for my parents too, as I battled them on what I wore every Sunday and whether or not I would stay with them in “big church”.
Things changed when I entered fifth grade and was moved to another small group led by Brad Wagoner. Mr. Wagoner was a consistent face I could look to in Sunday school, and a somebody I knew I could always have a seat next to. In our small group, he created an accepting environment where I began to come out of my shell. He led us gently, always challenging us to read and think about scripture while also allowing for natural conversations and jokes that contributed to me feeling comfortable and accepted.
After I moved out of Mr. Wagoner’s Sunday school group and into middle school and beyond, we kept in touch. I emailed him questions I had about my faith or Bible passages, and he checked in and continued to challenge me to read and study scripture. Even now, nearly 15 years later, I look forward to reading his Family Christmas letter each year, and still find familiarity and comfort when I see him.
As I’ve grown, I have had the incredible opportunity to serve at Royal Family Kid’s Camp alongside Mr. Wagoner, and I feel honored to have been able to lead alongside somebody who has led me. I am happy to say he and Mrs. Wagoner attended my wedding, supporting me still as an adult.
After growing up and serving in children’s ministry myself, I know now that my situation as a little girl is not unique. Many children, at all ages, feel scared, uncomfortable, or overwhelmed in Sunday school, and that’s okay – it’s a big church with a lot of people.
However, a friendly and accepting leader can easily turn a dreaded experience into a fun learning environment. If I had not been placed in Mr. Wagoner’s group and found a leader who cared about me, I am sure I would perpetually dread Sundays and not go on to serve in Children’s Ministry myself. Whether on Sundays or 15 years down the road, servers in Children’s Ministry make a difference.
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